BENGALURU: In a misleading letter to the Union Health Ministry’s Economic Adviser, Karnataka health secretary Shalini Rajneesh has presented the defence of an official accused of financial impropriety as the ‘findings’ by the investigating officer.
Express had reported in May that the economic adviser to the Union Health Ministry, Arun Kumar Jha, had written to Shalini asking her to give a report on the alleged financial irregularities committed by the executive director of the Karnataka State Health System and Resource Centre, the state Health Department’s think tank.
On June 22, Shalini sent a letter stating, “I have directed the Chief Financial Officer, National Health Mission, to enquire into the matter and submit a factual report. The same is enclosed herewith for your kind perusal.”
“Sadhna’s explanation with documents was given to the CFO for comments. After he certified and confirmed, the report was sent to the Centre,” Shalini argued despite the CFO denying it.
On being asked about the letter sent to the Centre, Manjunath Swamy, the CFO of NHM said, “I was not aware of the letter sent to the Centre. It does not even have my signature though it says at the end it was prepared by me.
These are replies sent by Dr S M Sadhna (executive director of KSHSRC) when a call attention motion was passed in the Assembly.”“I am still translating my report from Kannada to English because it has to be sent to the Union government. Nowhere have I given Sadhna a clean chit as claimed by the Principal Secretary. In fact, the department can directly recover `14.47 lakh from her as she withdrew excess salary for herself and her employees. She has also violated the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act. Violating just one of the provisions invites a three-month jail term. The NHM MD can file a complaint with the police,” Manjunath said.
Despite a scathing investigation report, Shalini batted for Sadhna saying, “If the Executive Committee (EC) members sanctioned excess amount, as observed in Sadhna’s replies, we should take action against the members of the EC and not the individual.”
However, she failed to explain why Sadhna’s replies were presented as the “factual enquiry report” to the Centre.
What the inquiry found
The state NHM, after a three-day investigation last month (June 1-3) into KSHSRC, recommended replacement of its director Dr S M Sadhna and entrusting financial transactions to a regular employee, which she is not.
The investigation report, a copy of which is with Express, says the current director had drawn an excess salary of `9.21 lakh over a period of four years.She also got four of her employees an excess payment of `5.26 lakh. Sadhna is also found to have diverted `23.14 lakh unspent health mission funds to Karnataka State Health System and Resource Centre, the report noted.
The task of conducting a public health survey at a cost of `10 lakh to study 24/7 primary health centres was entrusted to an NGO, Vivekananda Youth Movement, without calling for tenders, the report said.
It also said that tenders weren’t called for a sensitisation programme held for urban local bodies that costed `24 lakh.